The beta version of Microsoft's free anti-spyware software expired Sunday, leaving Windows 2000 users out in the cold and some Windows XP owners confused by cryptic error messages.
Windows Defender, the Redmond, Wash., developer's free-of-charge anti-spyware program for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, went final in late October. However, the last beta -- dubbed Beta 2 -- continued to work on systems, including PCs running Windows 2000, until Dec. 31, 2006.
Although Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users can upgrade to the final program by downloading it from the Microsoft Web site, Windows 2000 users are out of luck, Microsoft said. "Windows Defender no longer supports Windows 2000 as [Windows 2000] went out of mainstream support in June 2005," the download site stated. The company had announced the end of support for Windows 2000 when it released the final two months ago.
Even so, many Windows 2000 users were either caught unaware or expressed dismay at the software's expiration. "For them to take away windows defender just like that is bad business i got a bad taste in my
mouth from microsoft," wrote someone identified as "vincentvinyyc" on a Microsoft-hosted newsgroup.
Numerous Windows XP users, meanwhile, also reported problems with Defender Beta 2 expiration. Several users posted comments describing enigmatic error messages they started seeing as of Jan. 1, while others were unable to install the final even after uninstalling the beta. The solution for the former is to upgrade to the final edition; the latter problem can be solved by running a program called Windows Installer Cleanup Utility, which can be downloaded from the Microsoft support site.